The Heart of Asymmetric Advantage is NOT Technology,
It merits emphasis that the author’s first conclusion, spanning a diversity of case studies, is that technology may be a catalyst but it rarely drives a revolution in military affairs–concepts are revolutionary, it is ideas that break out of the box.
Their second conclusion is both counter-intuitive (but based on case studies) and in perfect alignment with Peter Drucker’s conclusions on successful entrepreneurship: the best revolutions are incremental (evolutionary) and based on solutions to actual opponents and actual conditions, rather than hypothetical and delusional scenarios of what we think the future will bring us. In this the authors mesh well with Andrew Gordon’s masterpiece on the rules of the game and Jutland: we may be best drawing down on our investments in peacetime, emphasizing the education of our future warfighters, and then be prepared for massive rapid agile investments in scaling up experimental initiatives as they prove successful in actual battle.
The book is noteworthy for its assault on fictional scenarios and its emphasis on realism in planning–especially valuable is the authors’ staunch insistence that only honesty, open discussion among all ranks, and the wide dissemination of lessons learned, will lead to improvements.
Finally, the authors are in whole-hearted agreement with Colin Gray, author of Modern Strategy, in stating out-right that revolutions in military affairs are not a substitute for strategy as so often assumed by utopian planners, but merely an operational or tactical means.
This is a brilliant, carefully documented work that should scare the daylights out of every taxpayer–it is nothing short of an indictment of our entire current approach to military spending and organization. As the author’s quaintly note in their understated way, in the last paragraph of the book, “the present trend is far from promising, as the American government and armed forces procure enormous arsenals only distantly related to specific strategic needs and operational and tactical employment concepts, while continu[ing], in the immortal words of Kiffin Rockwell, a pilot in the legendary First World War Lafayette Escadrille, to ‘fly along, blissfully ignorant, hoping for the best.'”